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T. No. With respect to corn, that is in all countries the product of cultivation : and different sorts are found best to suit different climates. Thus in the northern parts of the temperate zone, oats and rye are chiefly grown. In the middle and southern, barley and wheat. Wheat is universally the species préferred for bread-corn; but there are various kinds of it, differing from each other in size of grain, firmness, colour, and other qualities.
H. Does not the best wheat of all grow in England ?
T. By no means. Wheat is better suited to the warmer climates, and it is only by great attention and upon particular soils that it is made to succeed well here. On the other hand, the torrid zone is too hot for wheat and our other grains; and they chiefly cultivate rice there, and Indian corn. G. I have seen heads of Indian corn
as thick as my wrist, but they do not look at all like our corn.
T. Yes—the seeds all grow single in a sort of chaffy head; and the stalk and
. leaves resemble those of the grass tribe, but of a gigantic size. But there are other plants of this family, which perhaps you have not thought of.
G. What are they?
T. Canes and reeds—from the sugar canes and bamboo of the tropics, to the common reed of our ditches, of which you make arrows. All these have the general character of the grasses.
H. I know that reeds have very fine feathery heads, like the tops of grass.
T. They have so. And the stalks are composed of many joints; as are also those of the sugar-cane, and the bamboo, of which fishing rods and walking sticks are often made. Some of these are very tall plants, but the seeds of them are small in proportion,
and not useful for food. But there is yet another kind of grass-like plants common among us.
G. What is that?
T. Have you not observed in the marshes, and on the sides of ditches, a coarse broader leaved sort of grass with large dark coloured spikes? This is sedge, in Latin carex, and there are many sorts of it.
H. What is that good for ?
T. It is eaten by cattle, both fresh and dry, but is inferior in quality to good grass.
G. What is it that makes one kind of grass better than another?
T. There are various properties which give value to grasses. Some spread more than others, resist frost and drought better ; yield a greater crop of leaves, and are therefore better for pasturage and hay. The juices of some are more nourishing and sweet than
those of others. In general, however, different grasses are suited to different soils; and by improving soils, the quality of the grass is improved.
G. Does grass grow in all countries ?
T. Yes, the green turf, which naturally covers fertile soils of all countries, is chiefly composed of grasses of various kinds. They form, therefore, the verdant carpet extended over the earth; and, humble as they are, they contribute more to beauty and utility, than any other part of the vegetable creation.
H. What more than trees?
T. Yes, certainly. A land entirely covered with trees would be gloomy, unwholesome, and scarcely inhabitable; whereas the meadow, the down, and the corn-field, afford the most agreeable prospects to the eye, and furnish every necessary, and many of the luxuries of
, life. Give us corn and grass, and what shall we want for food ?
H. Let me see-what should we have? There's bread and flour for puddings. G. Ay, and milk, for you
know cows live on grass and hay—so there's cheese and butter, and all things that are made of milk.
T. And are there not all kinds of nieat too, and poultry? And then for drink, there are beer and ale, which are made from barley. For all these we are chiefly indebted to the grasses.
G. Then I am sure we are very much obliged to the grasses.
T. Welllet us now walk home. wards. Some time hence you shall make a collection of all the kinds of grasses, and learn to know them from each other.